RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment venture firm co-founded by the owner of the Miami Dolphins, has invested at least $25 million in the 23-unit fast casual pizza chain &pizza, the company announced on Wednesday.
A specific dollar amount of the investment was not disclosed, but a spokeswoman for the brand said the latest investment exceeded the $25 million the chain received from the family investment firm Avalt.
It’s the third funding round since 2015 for the Washington, D.C.-based chain, which has now received at least $60 million from investment firms over that period.
The latest funds will help the chain continue its East Coast expansion. The company has locations in D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The funds will help the chain expand to Miami, Boston and open four to six new shops in New York City next year.
RSE Ventures is an investment firm that backs “forward thinking entrepreneurs in the sports, media and entertainment industries.” It was co-founded by Stephen Ross, chairman and founder of the global real estate firm Related Companies and the owner of the NFL’s Dolphins.
Ross and his company have invested in companies like the luxury gym Equinox and the indoor cycling company SoulCycle.
RSE has founded or helped incubate numerous companies, including the Drone Racing League, as well as the International Champions Cup soccer tournament.
The investment firm has taken a keener interest in the restaurant space of late — it made a significant investment in David Chang’s restaurant group, Momofuku.
Matt Higgins, RSE CEO and cofounder, said the company wants to “arm innovative and socially conscious brands with the tools they need to command their categories.”
He cited &pizza’s company culture — where more than 100 employees love the company so much they get the company’s ampersand tattooed on their person — and its growth in the fast casual pizza space.
&pizza was founded in 2012. It uses organic dough and non-GMO produce and offers gluten-free and vegan items and works with local producers to create innovative menu offerings.
Its pizzas have a unique shape, six inches wide and 17 inches long, and customers can create their own version. The company calls its employees a “Tribe.”
The company has also taken some political stands, including arguing for increases in the minimum wage. Founder Michael Lastoria is an advocate for the push to pay restaurant workers at least $15 an hour.
More recently, the company debuted a new marketing campaign called Make Your Mark that highlights the communities the company serves, honors local entrepreneurs and charities.
“We wanted to create a scalable business that’s built on solid moral grounds,” Lastoria said in a statement. “And that’s why we thrive. We challenge ourselves at each stage of development to do the morally sound thing as well as make the sound business decision.”
He called RSE an “ideal partner” for the company.
“RSE understands and supports our vision and how we do things, and has a deep, brand-building and scaling experience,” Lastoria said.
Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]
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